The biggest ‘but’ in history

There must be numerous contenders for the most game-changing word in the history of the world, but today I’m going with this one: ‘but.’

Today I was reading through Mark chapter 14 and was meditating on the time Jesus spent in the garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross.

The first half of verse 36 struck me like never before. Jesus was praying and said these words: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.”

In this are two profound things. First, Jesus knew that God could do anything. He knew that it was well within the power of his Father to pull the pin on redemption and instantly take His son back into the eternal glory from which He had come. Furthermore, Jesus asked for it. Such was his agony at the thought of what he was to endure, that he asked his Father to remove it from him.

The Father would not deny the Son. Except for one entirely game-changing word: ‘but.’

At the most intensely pivotal moment the world has seen, the Son surrendered his will to His Father’s saying ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will,’ and the Father, in that moment of Jesus’ submission, overruled the will of His Son. Together they endured the cross, despising the shame, for the redemption of mankind.

How grateful I am for Jesus’ submission to the will of His Father, and how challenged I am by my lack of it.

What I discovered about drinking the blood

Single Glass Of Wine

Knowing the God of the Bible, it is no surprise to me that His book is unparalleled in its elegance. The symbolism and imagery is astoundingly sophisticated considering the time period over which it was written and the number of different pens put to parchment.

One of the strongest symbols in the bible is that of blood. It is the blood of a living being that carries its life, and it is innocent blood that must be shed to cover guilt.

Two compelling pictures of blood impacted me in a new way recently, as I received a fresh understanding of the significance of the communion drink.

The first communion occurred at Passover time, drawing a direct connection to that night when the Israelites, enslaved in Egypt, painted the blood of a lamb over their doors so that they might be saved from the angel of death. This blood acted as an external covering that protected them from the wrath of God.

Jesus does something amazing when he institutes the new covenant. No longer are we to paint this blood covering on the outside, but we are to consume it. The blood of the new covenant transforms us from the inside out. As we drink the cup, we willingly take into ourselves the symbol of the atonement. This metaphor of Jesus’ blood enters our digestive system and is absorbed into our own bloodstream. In this profound image we are not just covered by the blood, we are transformed by it.

Why prostitutes had an advantage with Jesus

382805_10150412644633143_1558372632_nSome time ago I watched a documentary by Louis Theroux about legal prostitution in America. What surprised me about these women was how broken they were. There were no pretenses. They are who they are and they know it.

Sure they have attitude and sass, and a lot of bravado, but once you get them talking, deep down, it’s not something they’re proud of.
It made me realize what it was that caused Jesus to hang out with them in preference to the religious elite of the time. While the prostitutes were under no false illusion about who they were and their need for a saviour, the rest of us spend so much time thinking of ourselves as good and trying desperately to cover anything that cracks the facade. The prostitutes of Jesus’ time knew they were seen as the scum of the earth, and came to Jesus in humility, recognising their true place before him.

Jesus had a lot of time for these people. And their humility was their great advantage. As He said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” It is our great disadvantage that many of us who think we are morally healthy by the world’s standards, are dying of pride on the inside, while the humble are receiving Jesus’ forgiveness and grace.

When Christmas isn’t Joyous

homelessAt Christmas time, we’re assailed by songs that tell us that it’s the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ We are encouraged to revel in the excitement of food and family and presents and general boisterous chaos.

For many however, Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year; a time when loneliness and poverty are exacerbated; when spending a quiet night eating a tin of baked beans is not only lonely, but excruciatingly painful.

My heart goes out to those who are poor and alone on Christmas, and as the church, we should be reaching out to them, but I can’t help wondering whether Christmas’ ability to be devastating is evidence that we’ve really missed the point.

Who was more poor or alone on Christmas night than Mary and Joseph themselves? And yet the entire reason that we sing of it as the most joyous and holy of all nights, is that Jesus, the savior of the world, was born.

Secular society has made Christmas all about friends, family, presents and food, isolating people who don’t have these things. But that is never what it was supposed to be about. It was about God coming to earth in human form, in the loneliest and poorest of ways, to dwell with us and save us from ourselves. If this is really our focus at Christmas, it can be a time of great joy for everyone, even, or dare I say especially, for those who don’t fit society’s mold.